Shifting Tides in Mission

The tide is shifting. For some time now, it has been coming in and we are challenged more and more in how to respond. The church has traditionally thought of going out on mission overseas, but now the nations have come all around us—at least into our society, but into our churches, not so much. So what are we to do?

Jesus calls us as his people: “As you go therefore, make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). When we think about it, this call to disciple others in following Jesus is applicable to us whether we’re going about our business here in Australia, or whether we’re going out to the furthest reaches of the world. The emphasis is on making disciples.

This call is not only for us to share amongst ourselves. God’s heart is ultimately for the nations to glorify him together in vibrant worship. And that’s the picture we see in the new heaven and earth:

“Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, were standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).

With this glorious vision for our future in mind, we look around us and see the multiethnic environments in which we live, work and study. And yet we think: if God desires people from all these nations around us to follow Jesus and worship him, then it does not make sense that, according to the National Church Life Survey 2021, approximately three quarters of churches in Australia are monocultural.

Why is this? And what should we do about it?

Community and Partnerships Director, Lisa Bateup, reflects on how Interserve can use its skills and knowledge to support the work of God’s people:

“Making disciples of all nations is the calling of the church.”

“Yet intercultural ministry requires a great deal of intentionality to produce lasting change. It will not happen without the active involvement of church leadership.

“So we’re seeking to partner with the church in their ministry, to better reflect the local community and grow their engagement with what God is doing around the world.

“We’re seeking long-term partnerships with the local church that enable us to journey with them in their discipleship and outreach activities.”

As we speak, this church engagement initiative is building a team to work closely with a small number of churches around the country in 2023 to support their work. They are seeking church leaders to be part of an advisory group to provide insight into where they would value support in local and global missions engagement.

“God is the one bringing the nations to Australia and working out his purposes as the country becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse,” Lisa said.

“We have the privilege and responsibility of joining in the work he is already doing. This will both revitalise our churches and raise up workers for the harvest field around the world.”

So as the tides continue to come in, and people from many nations cross the seas to live amongst us, the question is raised to each one of us and our local churches: as we go, how can we join in God’s work of making disciples of all nations?

LOCAL // GLOBAL Conference

How can we make disciples of all nations from our own local setting?

That was one of the bright and colourful threads running through Interserve’s Australian Team Conference. It was brilliant to see everyone face-to-face again in our first national conference in 10 years! It kicked off with a fun-filled evening celebrating 170 years of Interserve with cake and conversations, cross-cultural experiences and stories from Asia and the Arab world.

In a weekend of inspirational speeches and up-skilling partners, International Director Bijoy Koshy gave the keynote address on how Interserve can see lives and communities transformed through encounter with Jesus—in the local/global mission dynamic. More and more we realise how we do not face a go/send divide in God’s mission of making disciples and extending his love. Rather, we engage in the frontline wherever we are in our local context, and wherever we go in our global context. So following Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, as you go on your journey, “make disciples” among the people of the nations who come to your neighbourhood, just as when you go out to them.

Matthew Kuruvilla spoke on growing a multi-ethnic church through the story of his time as Senior Pastor at Sydney’s Parkside Church. The author of ‘Church without Borders’ demonstrated theologically and practically the beautiful reality of how we no longer gather according to ethnicity, but that people of all ethnicities gather around Christ.

Lisa Bateup, Community and Partnerships Director, addressed how Interserve can support the church in Australia in intercultural mission. She emphasised listening to church leaders, supporting churches in their ministry goals, customising our support, and investing in ongoing relationships.

A highlight of the workshops showed how mentoring men and women brings wonderful growth in godliness, courage and ability to serve in the community:

Mentoring is walking alongside someone in their journey in an intentional relationship whereby one person empowers, challenges and enables another to develop in areas of character and competence, thus increasing the impact in their life and service for the glory of God.

It is especially vital for Gen Z that we convey a wholistic, integrated vision of how we may live as followers of Jesus in our local and global environment.

So as we asked in our national conference, let’s ask ourselves as we go: how can we as individuals and churches respond to the call to build a multicultural church—in our neighbourhood and in the world?

Strategic steps for Interserve Australia

Introducing our interim National Director!

Here’s Arco (our interim National Director) and his wife Mirjam!

In February, Arco and Mirjam flew from chilly Amsterdam to warm Melbourne. Since then, they’ve met Partners and community members right across Australia!

 

Arco and Mirjam have had a long association with Interserve, including as Partners in the Middle East. Arco was also the National Director of Interserve Netherlands until December 2020, and holds significant business expertise. We’ve greatly benefited from Arco & Mirjam’s expertise and experience. They will be in Australia until August.

Q: Arco, what were your first impressions of Australia?

The first night we were in Australia, Jane (a staff member) told us we needed to adopt a footy club… and specifically told us we should NOT support Collingwood. So, we’ve chosen to support Collingwood. 🙂

I have also been amused by the sense of competition between the states, particularly the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne. There’s nothing like it in the Netherlands!

I’ve also been very struck by the town planning – roads are wide and straight, and the suburbs are very planned. Cities in Europe are much more dense, which means roads are smaller and more meandering, and fun to explore.

The people are very welcoming. I have met many people in the Interserve community and Partners from around the country including Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane. (Perth is coming up!) We’ve even met familiar faces from our time in the Middle East, and it’s been a pleasure!

Q: What are you excited to see happen in the coming months?

The Australian Board has asked me to help continue the implementation of the Strategic Plan. The next steps are about envisioning and equipping churches in Australia to engage in local intercultural work. We have some exciting initiatives to help church members and youth groups learn how to engage across cultures.

I’m excited about our ongoing vision to serve the peoples of Asia and the Arab world, both overseas and here in Australia, and about strengthening some of the ways we work here in Australia.

Q: Lastly, how can we pray for you and Mirjam?

Our three children are back in the Netherlands. Please pray for all the ways we try to stay connected with them.

I’d also value your prayers for the leadership team and Interserve staff during this time, and that God would lead us as we seek the next National Director of Interserve Australia. Thank you.

Put your faith into future action

Since January 2021, Interserve has received almost $180,000 from bequests! We are so thankful for our faithful supporters who have entrusted Interserve with their precious gifts to be invested in future kingdom work.

Ranging from gifts of $1000 to much larger gifts, these bequests have come from incredible supporters who have chosen to invest in Interserve beyond their time here on earth. We are so thankful that they have entrusted us to use their money wisely for the sake of the kingdom – as we support workers walking alongside people of Asia and the Arab world. Their faith in leaving a gift to Interserve in their Will has resulted in FUTURE ACTION.

What difference do bequests make?

Bequests are an amazing opportunity for Interserve to respond to current needs and future-building initiatives. Those who have entrusted us with their funds didn’t know how it might be used to bless others in the future!

Building a resilient foundation for Interserve allows our workers to plan and invest in their local communities for the long haul. The sustainable impact of ministries on the ground can be seen through many examples of long-term partnership.

We are here to stay.

As a highly trusted international ministry organisation serving for 170 years, we want to encourage faithful supporters to consider leaving a gift to Interserve in their Will to support future ministry. Throughout our history, we’ve served in many different ways in many different places, but always with the same vision:

“To see lives and communities transformed through encounter with Jesus Christ.”

If this is something you want to enable for future generations, we would love your support through a bequest.

Put your faith into future action today.

Would you please consider these two things?

  1. If you have already included Interserve in your Will, please consider sharing your story with us (which you can do anonymously) and tell us why you have chosen to support Interserve in this way.
  2. For everyone else, if you love Interserve and what we do, please consider investing in future kingdom work by leaving a gift in your Will today. Find out more.

For any enquiries or comments or to have a chat about what this means for you, please contact us on 1800 067 100 or email [email protected]

 

“We have taken a lot of encouragement that even when times were tough (and they were, with COVID, a military takeover and lots of divisions and injustice in society), we could ‘take heart’, as in John 16, as Jesus has ‘overcome the world’. We’ve been very conscious of being upheld by prayer over many years.” – Interserve worker

Why should we treat Third Culture Kids as kids?

As Interserve’s Third Culture Kids (TCK) Advocate, I was recently challenged to reflect on the importance of engaging and effectively debriefing with children growing up in a culture which is not their own.

I attended a seminar where the speaker Ruth Van Reken, a well-respected voice in the sector, raised the point that cross-cultural organisations and oftentimes parents can overlook the needs of children in the context of living in a new culture. It may be assumed that the children are well-adjusted and adaptable but perhaps there are still experiences and emotions that have not been addressed. Debriefing provides the essential opportunity to talk about their feelings – the highs and lows of growing up as a third culture kid.

Tanya Crossman is another well-known voice in the TCK world and in her book Misunderstood, several children share their experiences and the challenges that brought. Tanya highlights the need to acknowledge that TCKs are uniquely positioned as children of parents who have chosen to serve cross-culturally and therefore need to be supported in that way.

Tanya offers a window of understanding from the perspective of TCKs, as seen in the following testimony:

“‘I love the experiences I had as a TCK – they are a treasure trove of memories. What I don’t like is that I didn’t have a choice in the matter as a kid. I always felt that it was my parents who had chosen to be missionaries and not myself… It was really wonderful to be met by a TCK worker where I was treated as a kid rather than as a missionary.’ – Karissa, 23″ (Misunderstood, pp36-37)

What TCKs need is someone to listen to them without judgment, to advocate for them and to validate their feelings – both positive and negative.

Tanya highlights something we may often forget:

“A number of MKs felt resentment toward their parents for choices made on their behalf… They may believe in what their parents are doing, think it is great, and yet have negative feelings about their experiences… They may feel guilty about these feelings, believing it makes them ‘bad people’ especially when it is felt as a religious imperative. This resentment and guilt may be buried, result in passive-aggressive behaviour or only re-emerge later in life.” (Misunderstood, p34)

 

So what is the role of a TCK advocate?  

Essentially, to walk alongside and help TCKs debrief. This may include allowing them tosafely share their story, looking at highlights and lowlights of their experiences, unpacking feelings, as well as voicing hopes and fears for the future.  This offers TCKs space to process what they’ve been through and helps make sense of their identity and affirms them as an individual. It many cases it will help bring closure and help them invest in the next season of life, whatever that may be.

Most importantly, caring for TCKs involves affirming their story – each one is valued by the family, the organisation, and by God. As TCK advocate I feel privileged to be able to help families and organisations care for TCKs better.

This blog was written by Kath, TCK Advocate.
You can find out more about her work and how to support her here.

All images are representative only.

Unprecedented times, really?

New Year, same reality, renewed hope